Manufacturing AI Startup Drishti Bags $25M Series B Led By Sozo Ventures

The latest investments will be used for global expansion with plants across North America and Japan

Drishti Technologies, Inc. has raised an investment of $25 million in its Series B round of financing led by Sozo Ventures, according to a press release issued by the startup on Tuesday. As part of this round, Uday Sandhu from Alpha Intelligence Capital has joined Drishti’s board of directors.

New investors Alpha Intelligence Capital, Toyota AI Ventures, Micron Ventures, Presidio Ventures, HELLA Ventures, as well as existing investors Emergence Capital, Benhamou Global Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, also participated in the round.

According to Crunchbase data, the latest financing puts Drishti’s total funding at $37 million. The startup declined to reveal its post-money valuation.

The fresh funds will fuel Drishti’s global expansion including plants across North America, with a special emphasis on Japan, the third largest country in terms of manufacturing output, after China and U.S.

Japan has a manufacturing output of $1.063 trillion, which constitutes 10% of global manufacturing output, according to a 2018 Brookings report.

In 2019, Drishti was recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum because of its “clear potential to transform its industry and improve society for years to come.”

Prasad Akella, who led the team that developed collaborative robots, or cobots, at General Motors in the 1990s, founded Drishti in 2017, along with serial entrepreneur Ashish Gupta and former Google and Adobe computer vision expert Krishnendu Chaudhury.

The startup’s product and engineering teams were built in India under CTO Chaudhury, while Akella and the marketing team operate from their headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The startup captures video of manual actions from all workstations and then the AI parses the video and adds streams of time and motion data, which is then delivered via its portal to engineers, supervisors, and management.

Investors see Drishti already addressing a clear, pervasive industry problem for global automotive and electronics manufacturers—a lack of data on manual processes that hinders decision-making. Drishti addresses this problem by providing a new dataset on manual tasks that drives business insights, empowering people in assembly processes and enabling AI powered production.

“This volume and quality of data is valuable as Toyota embraces AI-powered production for a data-driven world,” said Akiharu Engo, department general manager at Toyota, which is evaluating Drishti’s technology at manufacturing plants in North America.

“We see Drishti’s technology as a way to help everyone in the factory—including the line associates themselves—identify opportunities to improve performance and create greater value,” he added.

“Most manufacturers lack meaningful data about manual assembly processes, because human actions are very difficult to measure,” says Jim Adler, managing director at Toyota AI Ventures. “Drishti uses computer vision and AI to create continuous streams of data from video of manual actions.”

Solving a 100-year-old problem

Manufacturers are still relying on the century-old time-and-motion study practice to measure manual processes. This methodology is suitable for incremental improvements, but today’s manufacturers need to exponentially accelerate the speed at which they reduce costs, improve quality, train people and introduce new products.

Anik Bose, General Partner, Benhamou Global Ventures, said, “The manufacturing industry, and particularly the people who work on the assembly line, have long been neglected by innovators because of the misconception that factories aren’t ‘sexy.’ But manufacturing’s future relies on worker safety and happiness and supply chain resiliency.”

“This is a segment of manufacturing that seems ripe for innovation, so long relying on humans to gather data and do analysis on a largely manual basis,” said Nick Patience, lead analyst for AI and machine learning at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“When a manufacturer is trying to implement continuous improvement, it can get significant leverage using technologies such as computer vision and analytics versus people observing in person and then making changes,” he added.

Discrete manufacturers such as DENSO, Flex, Ford, Nissan and others who embrace lean production methods are working with Drishti to gain efficiencies and infuse resiliency into their workforces and supply chains. Drishti’s impact is felt across the entire plant ecosystem — from line associates to indirect labor to the front office.

“There is particular demand for Drishti’s technology in automotive, where the winners in a crowded industry will have low error rates and a steady supply of new products, and throughout the manufacturing world,” said Uday Sandhu, partner at Alpha Intelligence Capital.

“Drishti provides rich data quickly to drive insights and allow automakers and suppliers to make better decisions faster. These implications reach far beyond the automotive world into broader manufacturing, as well,” he added.

Founder and CEO of Drishti, Akella said, “We’ve seen the massive impact our technology can have in driving significant improvements in critical business areas. We have a vision of people and technology, human and machine, working in concert to the benefit of everyone in the organization, especially the people working on the line.”

Addressing manufacturing challenges in a COVID-19 world

Drishti’s technology is beneficial to manufacturers as they reestablish production amidst the impacts of COVID-19. For example, Drishti allows indirect labor to access the line remotely, thus reducing crowding around line associates to maintain social distancing.

“At Flex, we have used Drishti to feed data back to our remote business operations center of excellence, where the industrial and lean engineers can analyze footage and solve problems without adding congestion to the floor,” said Mike Doiron, Chief Technology Officer of global operations at Flex.

“In addition to providing valuable training and process optimization benefits, Drishti makes it easier for us to monitor operations remotely, search for key operation steps where quality issues are of concern, and it can also be used in parallel to assist in protecting employees during unique times such as COVID-19,” he added.

“The macroeconomic developments of 2018-19 already required steep increases in productivity and efficiency to ensure long-term success in the automotive industry. COVID-19 only accelerated this motion,” said Marco Marinucci, Partner and Head of HELLA Ventures.

Extending human potential in an increasingly automated world

In addition to improving standardized work adherence, highlighting any productivity issues and driving quality improvements, Drishti says it is providing AI-based continuous training for line associates.

“At Emergence, we promote the idea of coaching networks, where people use AI to help us get better at our jobs while learning new skills,” said Jason Green, General Partner at Emergence Capital.

“Drishti is an early example of a coaching network being successfully deployed and creating immediate value for an industry in need of disruptive innovation,” he added.

Drishti’s training function uses AI, video and best practices reinforcement to train new employees, cross-train existing employees and identify what it considers “brilliant outliers”: creative line associates who excel in certain roles or develop new ways to improve standardized work.

Andreessen Horowitz Partner Frank Chen said, “In the future, humans and machines will be working together to deepen the effectiveness of each, driving better outcomes than what would be possible with just humans or just algorithms alone.”

“Drishti’s focus on extending human potential is an example of this principle in action, and the benefits to manufacturers and line associates are clear,” he added.

Header Image Courtesy of Drishti

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